It’s Complicated

The largest study to date concludes that human sexuality is complicated. I will alert the media.

Pretty much since the beginning of studies, we have, as a species, been trying to figure out human sexuality and same-sex attraction, and many, along the way, have sought to demonize it. Is it genetics? Is it a lifestyle choice (a “wrong” choice as Dan Quayle once asserted)? Is it a “mental disorder”? Can it be “corrected”?

Before delving into the study, I have always been a proponent of common sense takes on issues, so here is mine. Of course, the human body, and in particular the brain, is extremely complicated and well beyond the scope of full human understanding. I think it probably always will be. There seems to be an infinite number of possible gene/DNA/environmental variants that could determine who we each are, as an individual. It would stand to reason, then, that there are many possible degrees in human sexual orientation, making the Kinsey scale seem outdated and oversimplified.

Those additional environmental and social factors further complicate matters, but here is the bottom line: sexual orientation is and has always been varied throughout our history. We need to stop judging and marginalizing others based on faulty biases and misunderstood (both innocent and deliberate) interpretations of religious texts.

Now for something completely different: a scientific study. In the largest study of its kind about human sexual orientation, researchers analyzed the DNA of hundreds of thousands of people. For generations, there has been the quest for the single “gay” gene, but that is not what they found. Not surprisingly, what they found is that sexual orientation is much more complicated than a single gene can determine.

Their study suggests that there are at least five genetic variants that could be related to same-sex behaviors. I will predict, right now, that future studies will undoubtedly find more. The researchers also found that environmental factors play a role and that no one single factor can determine someone’s sexual orientation. Our human experience is so much more complex than what can be identified, even by large and well-executed studies, as this one seems to be. As with most advances in scientific knowledge, we continue to learn that the more we know, the more we realize that we don’t know.

As with prior studies, there are already concerns with this study that its findings will be cherry-picked for items to exploit for political gain or bigotry and hate. Unfortunately, those behaviors from small people will exist with or without studies attempting to better understand ourselves.

While I generally prefer common sense over scientific studies, I completely agree with its overall conclusion, as expressed by its lead author, Andrea Ganna, European Molecular Biology Laboratory group leader at the Institute of Molecular Medicine in Finland. The conclusion is simply that same-sex behavior is “a natural part of our diversity as a species.” Makes sense to me. I would add that our diversity is something to be embraced and something we can all take pride in.

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